Air Force Half Marathon (1:27.28)

A half marathon takes longer mentally to process than a 5k race recap.  So here we are almost a week after my first half marathon since April.  In case you don’t feel like reading, I had a good experience with the Air Force Half Marathon.

It was probably one of my best half marathons in the last year, despite not being my fastest, not that I was expecting a PR or anything close.  This particular recap has a lot more reflection, and a short recap too.

In the last year I’ve run several half marathons:

Rnr Philadelphia (1:27.37)
Runners World Half (1:24.17) probably my best race performance albeit not my fastest
Beat 539 Half (1:25:28)
Philadelphia Half (1:27.44)
Dallas Half (1:23.44)

Mercedes half (1:27.01)
Shamrock Half (1:26.49)
April Fools Half (1:26.17)

Half marathons are my bread and butter.  Unfortunately, the last year never showed the hard work I put into running. Last winter, I was in 1:21-1:22 shape, but I never raced like I was.  As I got slower throughout the spring, it ultimately led to my hiatus (which I needed both mentally and physically).

When my husband was selected to run the Air Force Marathon for his command (Air Mobility Command) several months ago, it was in the back of my mind that maybe I would run the half.  The summer flew by, and I found myself having done little running. Finally, in August, I had more time and decided I would start easing into running. In order to make it to the start of the Air Force half healthy, I forwent running one of my favorite halves: RnR Va Beach a few weeks prior (2 half marathons in doable when I’m training appropriately…but that fitness is not there right now).

We left the Thursday before. We stopped at my inlaws house in central PA and headed to Dayton, Ohio that Friday.  Looking back, we should have left earlier and been in Dayton that Friday.  As we got to Wright Patterson, there was traffic, and we nearly missed picking up packets and my husband’s uniform.  When I say we were one of the last people to pick things up, it was close. We also ended up walking about 2 miles between 7-8:30pm.

Nothing about that is ideal for a morning race, but my only goal was to support my husband and enjoy 13.1 miles.  Whatever happened to me, happened to me.

The morning was uneventful, and we made it to the start by 6:30 (for his 7:30…my 8:30 start). He went to the special Air Force tent, did whatever he does to warm up, and my mother in law and myself headed to the start to spectate.

Not without running over to the start and taking a selfie with him.  (There were no corrals, and everything for this massive race is self-seeded, so I didn’t impact anyone’s race).

The marathoners went off, I relaxed for an hour, and per usual randomly chatted with people.  I felt no need to warm up considering it was my longest run by 3 miles since April.

Before I knew it, it was my turn to head to the start!  I went to the start, and we were off.  I had no goal but to finish, and let my body do what it wanted to do.  Typically I’ve run my first half back from a break or injury between 1:30-1:33 so that’s what I expected.

The first mile was packed and a blur.  I saw several females in front and plenty of males.  I hit in a 6:44 and was both surprised and pumped.

Then next few miles, I grabbed Gatorade, and it felt hot.  I started running with several men who were also competing in the MAJCOM challenge.  One thing I can count on with the Air Force, is they are usually as chatty as I am.  We were all just talking for 3 miles about everything from life, to work, to moving.  Our miles ranged in pace from 6:29-6:40 and clicked off quickly.  We passed 2 women and several other men too.  I was feeling strong and confident, but I also knew this wasn’t a 5k and I had a long way to go.  I was unpredictable after mile 10.

We hit the halfway point in exactly 43 minutes.  The course had zero (and I mean zero) shade, and it was already above 70 degrees and humid.  I was glad I wore a hat and sunglasses.  My legs weren’t feeling bad or fatigued, but the heat was starting to affect me.Air force half marathon dayton ohio me running

Around mile 9, we climbed an overpass, and I wasn’t expecting any climbs or any hills at all.  I hadn’t done research but mentally had assumed all Air Force races must take place on flat runways and flat bases.  That thought process didn’t really have any basis and was in fact, foolish.

The last four miles of the Air Force half is harder part of the course.  I looked ahead at the hill and saw one female, and just tunnel focused on passing her and staring at the top.  I did both, caught my breath, and continued.  That was my slowest mile, in 6:46.

At the 10 mile point, I told myself: the half marathons are your bread and butter.  All that’s left is the 5k butter.  The 5k I haven’t run in the months.  The 5k I’m known in my best fitness to hammer and pass people.  I wasn’t going to let it break me, and I felt too good.  I hit the 10 mile in 1:07 and told myself a 1:27 is in your wheelhouse today.

Despite not researching the next three miles were hilly, I was determination to get there.  You enter back onto to Wright Patterson Base around mile 12.  They begin the finishers shoot at mile 12.  Mile 12. I told myself I wouldn’t even care if the course was short.  I knew it wouldn’t be, but my legs would be cool with less running. Air force half marathon dayton ohio me running

Being in a mile long finishers shoot is soul crushing.  You are alone, spectators around, and you’re struggling. Maybe you aren’t struggling so you look strong, but I was as I should be.  One woman outkicked me in the last half mile.  Too bad, she won our age group and was the fourth female.  I didn’t have the kick to catch her.

I crossed the finish in 1:27.28 and fifth female overall.  It far exceeded the expectation I had for the race. Not my fastest half but not my slowest either, but definitely one of my most fun.  The heat affected the half marathons but definitely affected the full marathoners much more.  My husband ran a 3:15 and my father in law squeezed into BQ in a 3:58.

Apparently, I decided to nap and close my eyes right there…

I would love to run the Air Force Half again when I’m in better fitness because I do believe it’s a course I would excel at.  I have a feeling we will probably be back, but T might be competing for a different MAJCOM command.

I’ve recovered moderately well from the half, and for the next five weeks, I’ll focus on 5ks, followed by the Runners World Half.

Questions for you:
Do you typically talk during races?
I’m a talker during halves and fulls…not 5ks

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Two Years of Marriage

Two years ago was the best day of my life because my husband and I got married.  Everything went perfectly, and there is nothing we would have wanted differently.

As most people know, he is in the military and has been gone for almost exactly one of those years.  While his deployments aren’t long (about 2 months), they are frequent and so are his other trips.  I won’t say it’s been easy and there have been plenty of hard days. I will say we are still as happy as the day we met.

Today I knew today I wanted to post about our anniversary but had no idea what to post.  I finally settled on a “how we met post”.  I’m always interested to see how other people met their significant other so I thought I would share.

So How Did We Meet?

My husband and I met during college cross country season in 2011.  We met at a scrimmage race between our respected two universities.

Tim ended up winning the scrimmage race for men, and I won for females. After the scrimmage, we talked for a while and went on a run a few weeks later.   Cross country season went by, and we still chatted after the season.  During this time, I was coming back from my first serious running injury a tibial stress fracture.  Tim did multiple sports and was getting ready for ski season.  Since cross country was over, and he was no longer running competitively, running at a slower pace didn’t matter.  I was running easy after my injury and he was running easy just to run.

YAY an old school college picture.

Eventually, after several runs, we hung out outside of running. When the semester ended, we both went to our hometowns for winter break. Tim drove down to Virginia Beach and visited for New Years.

Later in the spring, we officially started “officially dating”.  I was blogging at the time, and I don’t think I even mentioned on the blog: OMG you guys, new boy in my life”.  It’s been a theme of the past 6 years, we’ve been happy but he isn’t a large part of the blog.

In May of 2012, we both graduated college and decided to try doing a long distance relationship.  Our options at that point were to try and do a distance relationship or break up.

Tim went to Air Force pilot school in Texas, and I began working in Oswego, NY.  During that time, we both learned a lot about ourselves, interests and hobbies.  We went just over 6 months without seeing each other.  It was one of the hardest times of our relationship but worth it.  The first time we saw each other again was that Thanksgiving, and it was as if nothing had changed.

My first visit to Texas

After Thanksgiving, we saw each other again for Christmas, then in March and in May. It was a lot easier than the first few months.  After nearly a year of distance, we made the decision I would move to Texas. As much as I enjoyed my job in Oswego, I wanted to continue my relationship with Tim and we had to eventually move (he did not have that choice with me).

In Texas, they have these for decoration…
Winning a growler at a half marathon in Texas

Tim graduated his pilot training, and we were told we would be moving to New Jersey. Neither of us knew anything about NJ (except people drive very quickly on the Turnpike) in October 2014.

We’ve now lived in New Jersey 3.5 years and I truly say I love it.  I’ve made incredible friends, I enjoy my job and there is always something to do.  We are only a few miles from Philadelphia and short drive from both of our parents, New York City and Baltimore.

On April 1, 2014, Tim proposed to me.  It was exactly what I wanted, low key and at our house.  We are low key, and I could not have asked for a better proposal.  To be honest, as much as we love running, proposing at a race or in front of hundreds of people is not either of our scene.

 

Engagement photo

Even though we lived in New Jersey, we made the decision to get married in my hometown area in Norfolk, Virginia.  We spent a year wedding planning and got married on April 12, 2015.  While planning a wedding further away was more difficult, it wasn’t as stressful because we both have such supportive and helpful parents.  We couldn’t have dreamed for a better day.

After our wedding, we took a few days to relax and went straight on our honeymoon.  We decided to spend a few days in Key West and go on a cruise in the Carribean.  It was a great vacation, and it was perfect.

Then a few days after we got home, he was deployed for a while.  For the first 6 months of our marriage, he was gone for just over 4.  Afterward, he was home for a bit more, but in the past 2 years, he has been gone for over a year.

Throughout the first two years of marriage, we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other.  Even though I grew up as a military child, being a spouse much different.  It’s not always easy, but the time we do have together makes it worth it.  I’m also thankful for my family and friends who help me get by.

As most people know, he is away now.  We might talk today, we might not.  It doesn’t mean I love my husband any less.  I could not ask for a better person in my life.

Flying together
Hiking Bear Mountain and when we actually saw a bear

Here are some other posts about my husband and I (or just my husband): 
Wedding Post
Honeymoon
Flying Together
Tim’s Recap of the Mercedes Marathon

Living Minimally

It’s hard to believe I’ve been back in New Jersey for 10 days.  It’s been an adjustment to life, weather and just getting back into my regular routine.

I didn’t have to stay 6 weeks in Montgomery.  I did have to go down, but I could have driven back solo while my husband finished his course.  I could have driven down, did what I needed and drove back to New Jersey (driving close to 4000 miles in 6 weeks). Instead, I chose to drive down once, stay there during the quiet weeks and drive home together.  That way, we could drive one car, stay together and it would be more enjoyable that way.

When we moved to Alabama, I packed everything I would need in two suitcases.  We weren’t sure the exact time frame, but you can live out of a suitcase for 2 months.

To be completely honest, I was nervous to go down there.  As I mentioned, I left my job for 6 weeks.  I didn’t know anyone in Alabama.  While I had things to do, it definitely was not as much as living back in New Jersey.

But I wanted a risk, new adventure, and challenge.  I told myself: if I had lived in the middle of nowhere, Texas, I could make it Alabama.  Thinking out loud and truth be told, despite the constant tornados, I liked Alabama.

Living in Alabama taught me a lot how to live minimally.  I learned I have far too much clutter here in New Jersey.

Essentially, I lived out of a suitcase in a two room hotel for 6 weeks.  In the hotel, we had a kitchenette but no oven.  It wasn’t bad, and we were able to eat healthy and make do without it.

So how did we go from too much stuff to a suitcase full? 

Lucky for my husband, he has two work uniforms.  Then he needed about 2 regular clothing outfits. Since he was running and training for his marathon, he brought more shoes than I did. Realistically, he could have probably lived out of a backpack…As an over packer myself, I could not.

Downgrade:

Do you really need 5 pairs of black leggings? Sure, the material might be slightly different or the pattern but is it necessary?  I brought exactly 10 outfits that could be paired differently.  Different tops and different pants.  I brought three pairs of leggings and did laundry every few days.  I grew to love that clothing enough that I won’t be wearing any of it for a few weeks now that I’m home.

When I got home, I had even forgotten I owned certain leggings.  At that point, I realized I had too much stuff.

We Learned New Simple and Basic Recipes:

We didn’t have an oven.  So we were forced to cook the majority of foods from a pan or the microwave.  For example, one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables is by roasting them.  Roasted beets are delicious!  Instead of forgoing beets at all, we decided to try something new and boil them.  It worked out just as well and honestly it’s something I’ll do back in NJ too.

So while living in a 2 room hotel for a while wasn’t ideal, it did teach me a lot.

When I got home, it took me about a week, but I downsized and donated a lot.  What were some questions I asked myself:

  • Race Tshirts: Does the shirt have meaning to me?  Did I PR? Do I like the shirt, if it wasn’t my favorite, it was donated.
  • When was the last time I wore an item?  If it wasn’t in the last full calendar year, it was donated.
  • Do I have multiple of the same thing?  Base layers are great, but do you need 4 pairs of nearly identical black leggings?  I couldn’t even remember all of the similar styles I had.
  • Running Shoes: As someone who works in running retail, I had over 20 pairs of shoes.  I’m actively running in 3 pairs right now! I kept one model of each brand, and donated 13 pairs.  It feels like a fresh hair cut.

I’m happy to be back and I don’t regret staying down in Alabama for the full six weeks.  I learned a lot about myself and what was truly important to me.

Questions for you:
How do you figure out what to keep or donate?
What are some tips you have to live with less clutter?

 

Next Stop: Montgomery, AL

As you read this, I am on the 1000 mile road to Montgomery, Alabama.  I’ll be living there for the next 6 weeks. montgomery, alabama

Due to my husband’s job, we will be residing down there for the next 6-8 weeks.  It came up last minute so instead of mentioning it when we found out (about 3 weeks ago), we chose to keep it quiet.  With anything in the military, things can change last minute, so you never know.

We told family and a few friends but other than that we didn’t tell a whole heck of a lot of people.  But if you don’t blog about it, it never happened right?

Of course, I feel guilty that many people will find out via this blog post or Facebook, but it all happened so suddenly.  I enjoy living in New Jersey but six weeks is not a long time in the grand scheme of things.

As most people know, I work in a running specialty store.  Luckily, January and February are the quieter, so it wasn’t as big of a deal for me to need the time off.  I am lucky RunningCo. is good to me.

So I guess there isn’t much more to say.  I’ll be in the Montgomery area for the next 6 weeks. I’ll be relatively busy but if you’re local or have any recommendations for the area let me know.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get down to Pensacola as well as Atlanta for at least a day or two.

Questions for you:

Have you ever had a short term move?

Have you ever been to Montgomery?  Do you any have recommendations of things to do?

Beat 539 Half Marathon (1:25:28)

Despite the rain, wind and delayed start I got everything I wanted out of the base (Beat 539) half marathon. I was able to negative split the race and come back strong, after running hard the weekend before.

Do you race well in the rain?

Last Saturday I ran the base half marathon which was also called the “Beat 539 half marathon”.  The full marathon runs along Route 539 and if you have to run faster than 5 hours for 19 miles.

The full is USATF certified, and on a good weather day, it’s a fast course (minimal wind, blocked road, flat).  Since there were several races that weekend: (Atlantic City as well as the Perfect 10 Miler), all of the races had a small turnout.  There were about 200 people who ran the half marathon and 100 that ran the full.

My dad came up as well last weekend to visit.  Together we drove to Lakehurst base for the start of the half.  Since it was on base, the entire car was searched back to front.  (Even though we were both military).  When we got there, we headed to the fitness center where the other runners were.  Around 7:30, everyone headed outside.  I had no idea why and by the time I knew it, we were the only ones in the building.

I didn’t want to head outside, but I also didn’t want to be the only ones inside. It was pouring rain, 40 degrees and windy. Once I went outside, I realized everyone was walking close to a mile (yes a mile) to the start line.

Beat 539 half marathon start
Before we knew we were getting delayed

After getting to the start line in the pouring rain, the race was postponed.  There was flooding along the course due to the storm and the race director informed us there were sections that were completely flooded over.  By 8:30, I was freezing, miserable and not even wanting to run. For those who don’t know, I don’t run well in the rain.  I would rather run when it’s 100 degrees than when it’s 40 degrees and rainy.

Unfortunately this year alone I’ve run Shamrock half marathon, Broad Street 10 miler and this race in the pouring 40-degree rain.  So life is trying to make me love the rain.  Due to my luck, I bought a Gortex jacket and haven’t looked back.

To the race: once we started at 8:41, I was cold and miserable.  I wasn’t warmed up, and I didn’t feel good.  My goal was to run 6:40-6:50 the first half and try and hammer down after that.  Due to weather, I wouldn’t be disappointed if that didn’t happen.

I felt stiff during the first two miles.  My legs were tired; I was shivering, and I was just trying to warm up.  I was running in a pack of about four people.  There was one male leader ahead followed by my pack.  The course went through a few rolling hills, and I ran a 6:40 then 6:43.

Around mile 3, I found myself with one other male.  We were running alone with the first male way far ahead.  It was the last time I would run with anyone.  Around mile 4 I left him and ran the entire race all by myself.  That’s what happens with small races, though.

From mile 4-6, we were running on a couple different runways and roads.  It was a lot of side wind and not much view.  It was boring, lonely and honestly mentally challenging.  There were no spectators except several military personal passing out water every other mile.

I noticed cones going in the opposite direction, and I was excited.  It meant that there was an out and back portion and I would get to see other runners.  Out and back courses typically motivate me and seeing other runners motivate me too.  I’m a talkative runner and people cheer for me; I cheer for them too.  Out and back courses generally pump me up.

As I headed around mile 6, we entered a soft muddy ground.  I assumed this would be the portion that was flooded over and caused the delayed start.  The next mile was muddy were soft.  My feet sunk in but it wasn’t flooded (yet).  Then I saw the flooded section.  There was no way around it, and I just closed my eyes, cursed about 20 vulgar words under my breath and charged straight through.  It was about ankle deep.

There was another flooded section, and I charged through that too.  After that, I mentally regrouped.  I hit the halfway point in 43:40.

My A goal at the halfway was to drop the hammer and negative split the race.

My B goal was to maintain the same pace and be under 1:28.

My C goal was to finish because and not have a situation like Shamrock earlier this year.  As you can see, that race haunts me. 

And then for me, the race began.  The second half of the race went by much faster than the first.  I ran mile 7 in 6:16 and I began feeling confident.  I felt as if I had finally warmed up.  Mile 8 and 9 were both at 6:16 too.  Since I was running the race entirely by myself, there isn’t a lot to say.  I could see the overall male about 30 seconds in front of me.  I wanted to catch him!

During mile 11, we rounded a turn, and I could see the finish line.  Since the base is open (Lakehurst is a flight base so there are very few trees and you can see for miles), I could see the finish line 2 miles away.

The finish line is at the moment of the famous Hindenburg disaster.  Before the race, I actually did not realize that happened in New Jersey.  The blimp hanger is huge (over 300 feet tall and 900 in length), so you can see that for a lot of the race.

hindenburg disaster
Image via Weird New Jersey

It felt like we were almost done, but anyone running a half marathon can tell you, 2 miles is a long way.  I guess I was overly motivated and ran a 6:07 11th mile.

As we rounded a turn into mile 12, it hit me.  It began hailing, and there was a significant headwind.  It was blowing me backward as I tried to progress forwards.  Except mile 16 at the NYCM, it was one of the hardest miles I’ve run.  It was windy, hailing and I could see the finish line.  It just wasn’t coming any closer.

Base half marathon me running

My effort was still high but due to the wind, I ran the last mile in 6:40.   Finally, I crossed the finish in 1:25.29.  I quickly grabbed warmed clothing and changed afterward.

Thoughts:

After racing Runners World 5k and Half last weekend, I wasn’t expecting to be faster.  With the weather, I got everything I wanted out of the race.  If you are looking for a flat, fast marathon, I recommend it.

Questions for you:
Rain: Love it or hate it?
What is the smallest race you’ve run?  How about the biggest?
I think the Run from the Sun half in Watertown, NY was a little smaller but this is one of the smallest halves I’ve run. 

Have you ever had a delayed race start? 

 

Training: Recovery and a Hail Storm

Most of my training was spent recovering from the Runner’s World 5k and Half Marathon.  Earlier in the year, I also signed up to do the inaugural base half marathon on Saturday.  If it had been any other race, with no special meaning to me, I probably would have skipped it.

Of course, it was pouring rain, windy as well as hailing…but why wouldn’t it be?  Pour rain, hail, wind and 40 degrees is my race anthem of 2016.

Monday: Easy Run
Tuesday: Easy Run/Deep Tissue Massage
Wednesday: Easy Run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Easy Run
Saturday: Base Half Marathon 13.1 (1:25.30)
Sunday: Easy Run

Thoughts:

All of my easy runs were easy and solo.  I missed running with friends this week and don’t have anything to say about any of the runs.  My body spent most of the week recovery from Runner’s World and with the help of a deep tissue massage, I did just that. I didn’t fully recover, but I did the best I could.

Base Half Marathon (1:25.30)

There were several races this past weekend I wanted to do.  The Atlantic City half, as well as the Perfect 10, are both competitive and fun races.  I’ve run with both organizations and can vouch for either.  As I mentioned, if it had been any other race I probably would have skipped it but running the base half marathon meant a lot to me.  Since it was the inaugural race, it was much smaller (200 half marathoners). There was also a 5k and full marathon.  (Which realistically I could have done the 5k instead too…I’m a sucker for the 13.1)

Due to a storm, the race was delayed 41 minutes.  So we stood outside in the pouring rain for 41 minutes.  So it was cold!

My goal was to run 6:40-6:50 pace for the first half and then hopefully negative split.  I did just that and cranked hard in the second half, with the final mile in a hail storm (yes hail!) as well as a nasty headwind.  I’m very happy with my performance, and despite not feeling 100% recovered plus being cold and miserable, I made the best of the situation and didn’t have a repeat Shamrock.  I’ll have a long recap this week. Base Half Marathon splits

As you can see, I had a great race for what I was looking for.  This race gives me the confidence I am in half marathon PR shape, but I have a lot more room to improve.

In summary, I’m happy with the week, and I’m happy with my race performance at the half marathon.  I’m probably back to square one in recovering, though…

Questions for you:

Do you have any races that are close to your heart?

Have you ever had a delayed race?

Life as a Military Spouse

While this is (mostly) a running blog, it’s also a personal blog too.  After a long conversation with a friend, I realized where

I find myself constantly going back and forth of being: 

A “proud military spouse.”

To finding my own identity…

To being frustrated with the military because everything changes so rapidly…. 

I’ll always be proud of what my husband does, whether he is in the military or not.

Finding my own identity is a post by itself.  In conversation, I don’t care to talk about myself a lot (ironic since I’ve been blogging for five years), but I find myself questioning my identity.

Am I Hollie, military spouse?  Hollie the runner? Hollie the volunteer? Hollie the blogger?  To be honest, I don’t have an answer to that, and I find myself lost in my own identity.

And of course, the last frustration component makes up most of this blog. 

You know what?

Life has been hard.

Not in a whiny sense but in a talk real sense.  My husband and I are preparing for another deployment soon.  By “preparing”, I mean the Air Force needed him for another last minute trip, and he is currently away doing something else.  The trip was only supposed to last four days but four days turned to 5…6…7…and we are still counting upwards.

In the next 16 days, there is a lot to do before the deployment.  None of these things, he (or I) can do while he is away doing something else.  Sure there are goodbyes, but there is a lot of paperwork and misc tasks that have to be done beforehand.

These tasks are done on top of working a normal job.  What most people don’t realize is that also with the military, you don’t just “fly some” and come home.  When you’re not flying you’re back doing things on base too.  So it isn’t like a vacation when he is back. Not that he has been back to do that.

Essentially neither of us work regular hours.  Today (Friday) was our only day off together for the next 16 days, but that didn’t pan out. With my job, I must request days off a month in advance.  Working in retail that is what happens.  You can’t call in sick because if you do, the store can’t function. It ultimately strains the store.

I love my job but to give you an idea of how August played out, I asked for four days off to spend with my husband.  All four of those days he had emergency missions.  All four of those days off were wasted for me.  If I hadn’t requested off, I’m sure he would have had off.

With the military, your plans are always changing.  Your needs can often come behind the needs of the AF and the county.  I love my husband, and we are in a happy marriage but this month has tested both my stress and anxiety.  I would by lying if I said I hadn’t cried when several plans were canceled. Is it the end of the world?  No, but it’s frustrating.

I’m not a perfect wife, military spouse or person.  I do know that if he could, my husband wouldn’t cancel plans.  

So where does this leave me now? 
The same place I started.  Unfortunately, my plans are often dependent on what the needs of the military.  I’ll keep trucking on and we will make the best of the situation as we normally do.